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Marshals rotated die error found

Numismatic News reader Bill Abernethy is first to report finding a major error on 2015-W U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary $5 proof gold piece. The coin was struck with 68 degree counter clockwise rotated dies. It is the only modern U.S. gold coin known to me with a major rotation.

United States coins are normally struck with the top of the reverse die opposite the bottom of the obverse die, so if you turn a coin end over end by lifting it up from the bottom, the other side comes into view right side up. This is known as “coin alignment.”

This 2015 U.S. Marshals Service $5 gold coin founded by reader Bi

This 2015 U.S. Marshals Service $5 gold coin founded by reader Bill Abernathy displays a 68 degree rotation.

Medals are struck with the tops of the obverse and reverse dies opposite each other. If you turn the coin over by moving it from side to side, the top of the other side remains at the top. This is referred to as “medal alignment.”

This gold $5 coin is neither.

Abernethy said he purchased three U.S. Marshals Service 225th Anniversary 2015 three-coin proof sets online Jan. 29 and received them Feb. 3. When he inspected the sets, he said two looked normal and it was obvious that the third coin was struck with rotated dies.

He watched and waited for any word of them to be published in Numismatic News and when nothing was forthcoming, he decided to report his find on July 9, sending the coin to me the next day for photography.

Major rotated die errors are not uncommon to United States coins, being particularly plentiful in the 1800s and becoming scarce – though findable – on today’s circulation coins. However, they are almost unheard of on U. S. commemorative coins with the only notable example that comes to my mind being the 1989-D Congress silver dollar struck in medal alignment of which it is estimated by Heritage Auctions that approximately 200 escaped the Mint; others feel the number is much lower.

While there are 19 rotated die gold coins listed on the online, Rotated Die Coin Census website, all are dated from 1852 to 1887. Listings on that site are restricted to 90- to 180-degree rotations, but it still gives us a valuable insight as to when most or all significant examples of such errors occurred on gold coins.

Longtime error coin specialist/dealer, Fred Weinberg of Encino, Calif., who provides error coin attributions for Professional Coin Grading Service said that any rotated reverse that is off 45 degrees or more is considered major and certifiable by PCGS. He noted that he was unaware of any other modern gold coin with a major rotated reverse and felt this one was particularly interesting in that it was not only a proof but also a commemorative coin.

Dave Camire who provides the error and variety attributions for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation said, that they do not denote the degrees just referring to the error type as “Rotated Dies; “a 45 degree [or more] (either way left or right) would be considered significant.”

Projecting a value for this coin is difficult as it is still unknown as to how many more there might be and what the demand would be for such an error. However, we can look to the 1989-D Congress silver dollar for a little guidance. In checking the Heritage Auctions website I found that only one had been auctioned by the firm and that was in January 2003. It sold in PCGS MS-69 for $1,725.00 including the buyer fee.

According to Ron Guth of PCGS, “Anthony Swiatek estimates that there are probably 40 to 50 in existence (as of 2009). He has owned a total of seven of these rare variants in the past 20 years. Sale prices range from $1,000 for a coin with problems to $4,500 for a super quality example.”

Still the 1989-D Congress dollar is a 180-degree rotation which is generally considered the most desirable degree of rotation so the only comparison we have is that both are modern commemorative coins bearing a major example of this error type. Ultimately, supply and demand will be the determining factor of value.

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It should be noted that I was able to determine the exact degree of misalignment to be 68 degrees by manipulating images in Photoshop. However, in general most measurements are either eyeballed or done with a gauge such as Leroy Van Allen’s Rota-Flip or Innovation Enterprises’ Rota-Die, where this degree of precision is not possible and measurements are largely rounded up or down. In this case the coin would be described as having a 70-degree rotated reverse. Weinberg said he’d call it a 70-degree CCW if it came into PCGS.

There are two main causes of rotated reverse errors on modern U.S. coins. The first is machining a locater flat on the edge of the foot of the die in the wrong location. Flats are machined into dies so that the location is predetermined by the flat and the die holder with a corresponding flat machined into its inside diameter so that they can’t be set in any other orientation and to prevent mules being created by installing two reverse or two obverse dies into a press. The flats are machined in differently for the obverse than for the reverse preventing these mix-ups. Another cause is the die breaking loose within the retaining tooling. This most probably could only cause rotations after significant damage occurred to the die holder and/or die. In this scenario, it would be possible for the die to continue to rotate in the holder striking coins with a variety of different degrees of rotation.

While many in the hobby refer to such errors as Rotated Reverse, in fact it may be the obverse that is rotated in its holder. Since the starting point of measurement of one of these errors is from the obverse, it then appears that it is the reverse that is rotated, which of course may not be the case. Some in the hobby, including me, just call them Rotated Dies to reflect this fact.

Abernethy said he’s been a coin collector for over 50 years. “My wife’s father sparked my interest in coins over 50 years ago when he showed me his collection. Then when the U.S. Mint offered the U.S. Marshal three-coin commemorative set, I knew that would be a perfect gift for my wife, who is an avid TV Western viewer, especially “Gunsmoke.”

Numismatic News would like to hear from any readers who may have gotten one of these errors. Contact

Ken Potter is co-author of “Strike It Rich With Pocket Change” and has written many feature articles for “Numismatic News” and “World Coin News.” He is also a member of the board of the Combined Organizations of Numismatic Error Collectors of America. He can be contacted via email at for more information on CONECA, or to comment on this article. An educational image gallery may be viewed on his website at

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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